It was just over 15 years ago when local radio station V-100 first brought guitarist B.E. Taylor to Charleston to do his Christmas show.
The show did so well it was brought back again and again, almost every December, quickly becoming a holiday staple in Charleston.
It wasn’t just the music. B.E. Taylor’s Christmas show was never a small production. Wherever the tour went, Taylor utilized local high school drum lines and choirs, including the Appalachian Children’s Chorus (ACC).
Selina Midkiff, artistic director for the Appalachian Children’s Chorus, which pays tribute to Taylor this Sunday afternoon at the Clay Center, said they loved being part of the annual performance.
“Bill and his wife, Veronica, would create such a personal, family-friendly atmosphere,” she said.
Taylor was warm and personable.
“They would order pizza for the kids, make sure everybody got something to eat,” Midkiff said. “They treated everyone like they were a guest in their home.”
The ACC worked with Taylor for about a decade, whenever he came to came to Charleston. He loved having the kids on stage with him, Midkiff said.
“Veronica told me, ‘As long as B.E. Taylor comes to Charleston, the Appalachian Children’s Chorus will play with us.’”
When Taylor succumbed to cancer in August, Midkiff said they were devastated by the news, even though the guitarist’s illness was barely a secret.
“I’d known for seven years,” she said. “They wanted it kept quiet and I respected their wishes.”
Midkiff said she admired Taylor’s resilience. Cancer is a tough battle and he fought for years.
“He kept performing,” she said.
The disease and the treatments wore on him, though. Midkiff said she watched him struggle, particularly during the show last year.
“For a long time, he never left the stage,” she said. “He’d just perform all the way through. But that last year, after the treatments were getting bad, he’d take little breaks in between songs.”
Still, Taylor kept going, putting on a good show, she thought.
“He never lost his passion,” Midkiff said. “He wanted everyone to leave the auditorium feeling different than when they came in. He wanted people to be inspired and uplifted.”
Not long after Taylor died, Midkiff said the ACC decided to honor the memory of their friend. Christmas seemed like the ideal time.
Sunday’s show is titled “Feel the Love of Christmas,” which is taken from Taylor’s third Christmas record.
The show will include several traditional holiday favorites — songs Taylor might have used during one of his performances — but Midkiff said the choir is performing “Feel the Love of Christmas” too.
“I just wanted to do one of Bill’s original tunes,” she said.
That wasn’t necessarily as easy as it sounds.
Midkiff said Taylor didn’t have a lot of his own material already arranged. Many of his songs were still sort of in his head.
“He was like a lot of professional musicians,” she said.
So, ACC reached out to guitarist Ryan Kennedy to help them come up with an arrangement for them to do.
“We got a good deal on it,” she said.
The show will also feature the Martin Luther King Jr. Male Chorus and dancers from the River City Youth Ballet. Midkiff said they hoped their concert would share some of what made Taylor’s shows so special to so many year after year.
“We hope, with what we’re doing, people will feel his presence,” she said.
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